Date of Graduation

Spring 2022


Master of Arts in English



Committee Chair

W.D. Blackmon


Set in 1616 Jacobean England, surrounding a tragic chamber pot incident, the place setting of the small fishing town of Lechlade, England, begins our story. From generations of fisherman, Elias Eaton, is the first Eaton not to bear a son. Instead, his fierce daughter in her mid-twenties, Julia, our protagonist, helps her father at the docks daily. Although Julia is a champion for women of her time, she dreams of there being something more out there for her than the town that has shackled Eatons for centuries. Julia’s mother, Sybil, is the daughter to the town baker. Her literate father taught her to write, so she taught Julia in secrecy. Sybil runs the business of Elias’s fishery along with trying and writing new recipes which she sells weekly at the market with her husband’s catch. Since the Eatons are fairly stable middle class English citizens, Sybil can not only maintain the nurturing of her own family, but she also offers nightly meals to the poor for trade. A button can get you a mutton at the Eatons’. Julia resents her parents for, what she believes, are seemingly passionless self-establishings in the world. Their love was like a poem, and they were content with their trades. The same could not be said for Julia. Instead, she desires to write, like Shakespeare. She pours over her own poetry, attempts at prose, and faulty Shakespeare quartos in an attempt to procure copies worth studying. The way Shakespeare explores the depths of his characters’ minds—their inner turmoil—resonates with Julia in a way she cannot escape. After dropping a full chamber pot on a famous actor’s head, later to be revealed as Shakespeare’s closest friend, rendering him fatally wounded, Julia is thrust into the start of a journey that could potentially be the key to helping her understand the Eaton melancholy that binds her. Perhaps what feels like an all-consuming curse is otherwise our protagonist’s greatest gift.


novel excerpt, England, Shakespeare, melancholy, mental health, historical fiction, tragicomedy

Subject Categories

Creative Writing | European History | Fiction | Renaissance Studies


© Madison Hart

Open Access